Today marks the last official day of work, bringing to a close my 4th year teaching in Qatar. Each year I usually write a recap of how the school year went but it just seems weird this year. For the last 2 months, I haven’t even been in the physical school building. I didn’t even get to close out and pack up my room. This year was bitter sweet. I had an amazing working experience, but this year was also full of WTF events, ending with the obvious one that I won’t mention.
This was my first year, since being here, holding a position outside of the classroom. I loved it. It was stress-less, manageable and fun. I was able to focus on small groups and see growth. I was able to attend and conduct several Professional Development workshops. I obtained my Google I Instructor certificate and re-enrolled in school. I smashed my goals both personal and professional.
However, I didn’t travel once since the school year started, instead I focused on achieving some monetary goals. I waited to travel ’til April but that got shot down. My trips to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Malta, Ireland and numerous ones in the U.S.A all had to be cancelled. I am still waiting for several refunds and I have accepted that I probably will not get them anytime soon. I lost money too. I won’t be traveling home this summer which has me feeling very sad. I can go home but there is no guarantee that I’ll be able to make it back in time for the next school year to begin, as many borders are closed including Qatar’s for incoming persons. I also don’t want to risk close confines with strangers on a plane right now. I miss my kids and my family but I’m not alone as many people are suffering the same fate or worse. I still have a job and I have my health, so far, and I am safe. My family is healthy and I am grateful. Although if my husband was not here, I would be losing my mind.
I can’t believe it has been 4 years and I’m still here. I have no regrets about coming here. Time surely flies though. I have no idea what next year holds but I’ll be here for the adventure. We will probably start the year virtually and I may even be asked to return to the classroom temporarily, depending on the ability for new teachers to commute to Qatar. I hope not but the possibility is there. Either way, year 4 is in the bag.
Who knows what tomorrow holds? I could have never predicted that I’d be living through a pandemic in a foreign country. I never predicted I’d be here this long either. We have to plan for the future, but enjoy the day. So buy the shoes, eat the cake, take that flight because tomorrow is not promised.
*Disclaimer- this post is long but what else do you have to do
The beginning of quarantine started on Tuesday, March 10. It was the first day that students were told to stay home but we teachers still had to go to the school for work to prepare for what would come next, distance learning. It was also on this day that we were highly encouraged not to travel for spring break (due to the risk of illness and getting stuck outside of the country) and to apply for a Hamad card (a social security initiative for heavily subsidized healthcare in government-run medical institutions including pharmacies, basically welfare) because apparently our regular medical does not cover illnesses associated with pandemics. On Wednesday, I spent the day obtaining my Hamad card. Usually getting things like this done in Qatar takes time and patience. In my experience depending on where you go to get your Hamad card, requirements will be a tad bit different. However here is the list of things you will need: a passport picture blue background, 100 QAR on a credit card, copies of RP, proof of address (this will vary)- utility bill, or attested copy of lease with Kahrama letter (you can get this from your leasing office). You must go to the Primary Health Care Center nearest to where you live. You are given your card on the spot. If you need to renew your card this can be done online. — information retrieved from https://www.qatarday.com/blog/health/why-should-you-get-a-health-card-in-qatar/29120.
Thursday was our last day in the physical school. With the daily constant rise in cases of people infected with Covid-19, the quarantine rules have gotten pretty strict. Everything is closed now with the exception of the supermarkets, pharmacies and take out and we are encouraged to stay in doors. Social distancing is enforced here with threats of prosecution. I’m thinking we will be quarantined for at least 30 days.
Day 1- Spring break has just officially ended and we are still in quarantine. And although, technically it is not day one, it is the first official day of distance working. I want to keep busy or at least productive. Last week was spring break so I wasn’t as focused on being productive. But now since I have been blessed with all this extra free time, I don’t want to look back when this is over and feel like I wasted it and gained 10 pounds in the process.
Today Darryl and I started a 30 day workout consisting of daily push ups, squats, sit ups and lunges that increase in quantity per day. In addition we rotate abs, tabata, upper body, legs and yoga workouts daily. Today was abs. I read 20+ pages of my Abundance Now- by Lisa Nichols book. The plan is to finish the book by Tuesday, so I can start my new book on How to Publish a Children’s book. I worked on setting up my budget app- My Wallet and we took a virtual tour to the Grand Canyon and Hawaii’s national Volcano park. I’ve discovered that virtual tours can be useful when planning trips. You can document exact points of interest like the best locations for panoramic views and the best hiking trails for the scenery you’re most interested in seeing. Darryl cooked an asian spread consisting of sushi, udon noodles and fried rice with vegetables. Next is…
Day 2- I didn’t sleep very well last night. I think the extent that I have been following this Coronavirus is beginning to give me anxiety. The constant obsessing over it has began to weigh on me. For the past 2 days, I have been feeling some discomfort in my throat, like my uvula is swollen and is sitting too far in my throat. I’ve read that one of the symptoms of the virus is throat discomfort and soreness. However, I don’t have a cough or fever and I haven’t been around anyone who has traveled or who is sick. Last Monday, a group of us (11), had a small social gathering at a friends house but none of us had recently traveled. Outside of that, we saw our 2 close friends twice and they are fine. I’ve only been out of the house for an hour walk with Jenn and I wore a face mask the entire time and went with Darryl to the supermarket once with a face mask on. I made sure to avoid touching my face and wash and sanitize my hands. Other than this, I have been in the house and away from people. I hope it’s nothing, but I think I’m freaking myself out. In the meantime, I’ve heard drinking hot liquids helps and I’ve been taking Vitamin C, Echinacea and Golden Seal daily. I wonder if anyone else is experiencing these anxieties.
After spending some time on the phone speaking with my sisters about my feelings, I’m feeling better. Some people may be ashamed for how they feel or embarrassed but let me tell you, expressing your feelings to someone who cares about you and won’t judge does wonders. And I’m pretty sure others are feeling the same.
After picking myself back up, I was able to take a good nap. At 12, it was exercise time again. Today consisted of my regular workout and Tabata. I cooked Bok Choy for the first time and made some black beans in an adobe sauce. I made my first foot scrub today consisting of epson salt, coconut oil, Vit E and peppermint oil. The rest of the day included reading, more de-cluttering, making phone calls and getting clarity on my insurance policies as well as mortgage and student loan interest rates. Keeping busy.
Day 3-Last night I took 2 tylenol Pm and slept like a baby. I finished my book and finished de-cluttering. I made my first lip scrub, did my regular workout and upper body strength training.
Days 4 was spent much like the others, workouts, future trip planning and creating budget plans.
Day 5 started with a work related conference call and additional planning of lessons because distance learning will continue longer than originally anticipated. Of course we worked out and then I tackled my inbox, thousands of emails reduced to less than 200 in all 3 of my accounts. It took me over 2 hours to clean my emails. They need to invent a better way to clean up mailboxes or I just need to get better with clutter.
I began my new book “The Business of Writing for Children” to prepare for my next venture of getting a children’s book written and published. Darryl and I took a virtual trip to the catacombs and the Louvre in Paris since Zamir and I didn’t get to go into either site when we visited Paris 3 years ago.
Day 6- organizing pictures and working out.
Day 7- Today was scary, I had to go to the clinic. I was experiencing pressure in my neck area and stinging pain in my chest. I got an EKG which was in the normal range. No temperature, no swelling or redness of the throat, nothing in the lungs, diagnosis: early onset viral infection possibly connected to allergies. I received some meds and was told to return in 3 weeks for a repeat EKG and follow up. Oh boy, what’s happening to me.
Day 8- I felt a little better today, but stayed in bed anyway. I’m 2 days behind on my exercise and I’m not happy about that. I ordered some herbs from Swanson and toiletries from Amazon since it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting back to the U.S. anytime soon to refill. I completed some distance learning assignments for my students that receive learning support from me and spent the rest of the day reading, watching t.v., playing some brain trainer games, and relaxing. I really wish this Pandemic would go away. The U.S. is getting hit hard right now and in my opinion the government is not doing enough to protect its people. Money is their first priority and that’s a shame. I’m worried about my family back home. I’m worried about my own health. I feel stressed.
I took a nice, long, hot bath that melted my stress away and helped me have a peaceful night of rest.
Day 9- started with a business conference call about virtual admission testing for next school year and how to set these up. Not wanting to fall further behind on my 30 day work out plan, I jumped back in today. I adjusted my finances around and made up a budget plan for a future trip to Jordan. I’ve decided to stay in my apartment complex next year, so for the first time in 4 years, I won’t be moving to a different complex. However I will be downsizing to a smaller apartment. Darryl and I played our new Guitar Hero game that we ordered. I compared term, universal and whole life insurance policies and made a decision about which would be best for me. The day concluded with creating a draft Will.
Day 10- was a lazy day, spent mostly in front of Amazon Prime but also included working out and reading.
Day 11- I had to prepare more work today for another week of distance learning as well as attend another conference call about virtual admissions testing. I finished my book on The Business of Writing Children’s books and am ready to start my first manuscript. My friends and I played a game of Virtual Trivia tonight. It was fun to kick back, drink and enjoy other peoples company. Shout out to my girl Alyssa for putting it together.
Day 12- Today was the first day I have been out in weeks with the exception of the doctor’s visit. I just felt the need to leave these four corners if only for a little while. Darryl and I took a 3 mile walk around the outskirts of our apartments. It was warm out and welcoming.
Days 13-15- I spend some time talking to my mom and sister over the phone. My sister has lost her job amid this pandemic and the world is a very scary place right now. A few facebook friends of mine back in America have the virus and are recovering. We always crave more time to do whatever and then we get it, it’s difficult to do whatever because the time is spent worrying. For some reason, I can’t find it in me to begin my manuscript. I haven’t worked out in a few days but I’m resting though and resting is good right?
Day 16- Darryl woke up with a fever today. I’m worried. We haven’t traveled or been around anyone who has the virus but he has been to the grocery stores. Is it possible he has caught it somehow, no, I can’t think this way. He doesn’t have any other symptoms. He spoke to a doctor and they prescribed him a decongestant, the same one I just finished, Cirrus. Prayerfully, it’s just sinuses and not corona. I think our bodies are reacting toward stress. This is why I have limited myself to the amount of reading and accessing info on the virus. It was beginning to take its toll on my health and I think it is the same with him now.
I have a few virtual meetings to for work and I am grateful to still have my job .
Day 17&18- Keeping busy helps me stay positive. Darryl is beginning to feel better. We started the Star Wars trilogy in chronological order. He loves Star Wars. I think it is okay but watching it in order is helping me to better understand the story. We are also trying to learn some line dances, starting with Old Town Road. We got my sister in on it as well.
Youtube is like my new best friend. I’ve been researching some face care routines but honestly, my facial skin is one of my pride and joys. I very rarely have break outs unless my body is fighting a virus or something and my skin is always clear and smooth. I may add in a treatment once a week and sunscreen into my daily regiment. But that is about it. I’ve also looked into calligraphy and how to make home-made candles.
We started working out again and yesterday I even attended a religious meeting online. I went to the supermarket in Darryl’s place because I really don’t want him outside right now. I haven’t shopped alone in a long time. Actually being outside gave me a sense of normalcy again even it if was anything but normal with getting my temperature taken before entering the store, wearing gloves and mask and standing outside to keep social distance. I picked up a delivery from Aramex including my life size Jenga. The cost of delivery was 3 times the price of the game, which was already expensive, and it is heavy but if I have to be home, minds well have some fun.
I applied to refinance my house back home today; hopefully I will hear good news within a few days. I know I will be approved because my credit is stellar right now. I really just want to lower my interest rate before I start paying it off. I’ve also found some podcast to start listening to. One that I find particularly interesting is called, Stuff They Don’t Want you to Know. I listen to it on Spotify. I started brushing up on my Arabic too using the Duolingo app. I should have never stopped my Arabic classes. I suck now.
Day 19-26- I told you this post was long but keep reading.
I’ve actually been busy with work lately. I completed some admission testing for next school year and that has been taking up much of my mornings, followed by working out. Other than that, I’ve just been relaxing and enjoying this time at home. I have good days and blah days but I’m learning to simply appreciate this time. I love hearing the birds sing in the morning, which I didn’t pay much attention to before. I love not being on a schedule or routine. Some days are productive and some aren’t and I don’t feel bad about those unproductive days either. I don’t have to be productive right now, I just need to survive and appreciate each day I have here on this Earth.
Day 28 I think. It has almost been 30 days and my days and nights are starting to run into each other. I’m enjoying the fact that outside of the occasional virtual meeting, posting of assignments and testing, my days are pretty much unscheduled and a free for all. I pretty much do as I feel. I try to do some form of exercise every day if I feel up to it but if I don’t feel like getting out of bed, I don’t. Yesterday, Darryl and I did our 30 day workout routine, a yoga session and our line dancing. I don’t have a set in stone routine and I’m fine with that; this may be the first time in my adult life that I don’t.
Ramada is a week away and we have just been informed that we won’t be packing up our rooms for the first time in my teaching career. This is unheard of for teachers. There are only 5 weeks left in this school year. This has been thee shortest and whackiest school year ever.
One of the big things I have learned from this quarantine is that money should be spent on making your house as homely and comfortable as possible. I wish I had my own outdoor space right now and a private pool would be nice but I am thankful for the complex that I am in since I can take a nice long walk without treading thru sand and dirt. I am blessed to live with a compatible partner who doesn’t get on my nerves and who I love and who loves me dearly.
As of today, I won’t be taking any trips anytime soon. So for now, I will continue to enjoy this new way of living, filled with rest, relaxation, practice and make-up tutorials on youtube and IG, learning Arabic on Duolingo, keeping my brain fresh with Peak Brain Games, online classes, t.v. watching, working out, self care, etc… The funny thing is, if quarantine ends within the next month, I will still have 3 months of summer vacation left.
Day 29- Today I completed an online photography class through Nikon. It was very informative. A 45 minute class took me almost 3 hours between experimenting with my camera and taking notes. Here I am practicing with the exposure, taking pictures with various IOS, shutter and aperture.
Today was a friends birthday so I set up a Zoom call with a few friends so we could sing happy birthday to him and enjoy a shot together. It was my first time attending a virtual birthday party and there was zero clean up. My type of party.
Tomorrow marks the 30th day of quarantine and the Covid-19 cases in Qatar continue to rise. I hope the country has reached its peak and an end is in sight.
Day 30 Today is day 30 of quarantine and social distancing and the last day for this long ass post. I think today is day 30, maybe more. All sense of date and time has disappeared for me. Either way, I am quite proud of how I have handled these last 30 days and of course there is room for improvement.
Darryl and I completed 18 days of our 30 day challenge which equals 60% and accomplished an accumulated number of 162 push ups, 1285 squats, 705 sit ups, and 422 lunges per leg.
However this percent does not include the days I walked 3+ miles or other work out routines we did. We will complete the 30 day workout plan and then switch to a new one on May 1, since I see no end to this quarantine within the next 30 days. The plan is to increase our percentage to 80% for May.
Approximately 90% of our days were spent doing something productive. I learned a new line dance, new makeup techniques, and skin care routines, learned how to use my Canan Rebel, finished two books, worked, decluttered, budgeted, took some virtual trips, organized photos and emails, wrote a will, practiced Arabic, spent more than I wanted to and even cooked a little. But I didn’t write my book. So now this goal gets pushed to May.
More importantly than all of these things is, I spoke to my loved ones back home more than I have in my last 3.5 years abroad with weekly scheduled regular and facetime calls. My husband and I spent a lot of quality time together. I obeyed the social distancing laws and stayed healthy and safe. Outside of a few tough days, I tried my best to remain positive emotionally and mentally.
Here’s to Survival, Love and God!
How have you all been holding up and occupying your time?
We are basically advised to stay in our accommodations and only go out for food, medicine and emergencies.
By now, everyone all over the world is being affected in some way or another by the Coronavirus. As many countries surrounding Qatar began to report cases of patients with Coronavirus, Qatar was immune for a while. However, on February 26 this happened, “HH the Amir has issued directives to evacuate the citizens of the State of Qatar and citizens of the sisterly State of Kuwait, who are currently in Iran, due to the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19).” (Qatar News agency) And on February 29, The Ministry of Public Health confirmed Qatar’s first case of the novel coronavirus. The patient was a Qatari male who was one of the evacuees from Iran (Qatar Living). Since then the number has risen to over 450 patients infected with Covid-19, with the highest jump occurring just 11 days later of 238 cases. As of today, there have been 0 deaths and 4 people recovered.
At first, like many other countries, the Ministry thought the risk of spreading the virus was low and putting small precautionary measures in place would keep it that way. However, as the virus continued to spread, it was obvious that more would need to be done to keep the public safe and infections down.
Travelers were screened at airports. Some residents whom returned from countries with high cases of the virus were put in quarantined for 14 days. A hotel and some residential apartments were used solely for quarantines. Those residing there received free wifi and three meals a day from what I was told from a friend who returned from Italy and was quarantined upon arrival and without choice. She was released after the 14 days. The Gov’t paid for everything.
I was really looking forward to Spring break which was this week, March 13-21. We would have been visiting friends in Saudi Arabia (KSA), which I was really excited about since KSA had just recently opened their doors to tourist visas. Our visas were purchased and approved. Our flights were booked. We were also going to stay a few days in Kuwait. We already had our visas for there too as well as hotel stay and flight. Needless to say, we did lose out on some money, around 500 usd. We were able to recoup some of our flight money and 1 night of our hotel stay in Kuwait. Our visas for KSA are good for 1 year but the ones from Kuwait were only good for the time of our stay. If this has taught me anything, it is to pay that extra money for free cancellation on flights and rooms because the unexpected can happen. I usually don’t purchase insurance but for some reason I did on the hotel in Kuwait, probably because it was only 8 usd, so now I am waiting to see if the Insurance will reimburse the money from the other night stay for the hotel. I’m kinda bummed about the whole thing because I was excited about this trip and I haven’t been on any vacations this school year but I’d rather be safe than sick. There are many bright sides to this whole thing but one in particular is that, the original plan was to go to China to see the Great Wall for Spring break but I decided against that to save some money. Thank God for that because I would have lost a whole hell of a lot more money. In the meantime, I booked our flights to Malta for May. It was going to be our first stop on the way home this summer, followed by a few days in Ireland. Well my flight to Malta has also been cancelled but at least they refunded all of my money for that. However, my flight from Malta to Ireland is still booked and sitting in limbo.
Anway, with the rising numbers of infected persons, the Ministry announced the closing of all schools for students as of March 10. For the remainder of that week, students stayed home and teachers went to work planning for virtual learning. Everyone was advised not to travel but of course some did. And earlier this week, Qatar cancelled all incoming flights for 14 days for anyone except for Qatari citizens. Some people were left stranded. This week major precautions have been put in place: Mosques, malls, cafes, barbershops, spas, public transportation, sit down restaurants, public parks, events etc.. closed, distance learning for students and social distancing. We are basically advised to stay in our accommodations and only go out for food, medicine and emergencies. The Gov’t has offered some incentives for small business owners like, no rent payments, freeze on bank loan payments but nothing for the common residents.
I am a little worried but not panicked. This kinda summarizes how I feel each day.
I’ll admit, I am enjoying my time. Being stuck in the house doesn’t bother me especially since I’m stuck with my best friend. It’s like being snowed-in back in Philly. Darryl and I are spending our days doing various things. This is how we spent yesterday outside of Netflix and chill.
I’ve made a list of things I would like to do during this lockdown and am taking my time accomplishing them. Some of those things include: finish my Abundance Now book by Lisa Nichols, begin my new book on How to write a Children’s book, write a draft of my children’s book, declutter the house, make a decision on where I will live next year (will I move again or stay put in my apartment for the first time in 4 years), cook, start using my budget app, virtual museum tours, research investing, book my next detox, etc…
I think Qatar is doing their best to contain this virus but the daily rising numbers show just how resilient and contagious this virus is. I’m actually glad I am not in the U.S. right now. In my opinion, I don’t think enough is being done there to combat Covid-19, however, I am outside the bubble looking in. I pray for my family over there and hope that it doesn’t get as bad as it is in Italy there.
The first known case of Covid-19 is traced back to November 17 from Hubei province in China- https://www.livescience.com/first-case-coronavirus-found.html. It’s been approx 4 months and China is just starting to get a handle on it after over 80,000 people were infected and 8000+ have died. The end of June will be the 4 month mark in Qatar since the first case was reported and since January 19 was when the first case was reported in the USA, the end of May will marks that country’s 4 month mark. Qatar has already basically locked down the country but the U.S. has not. I am nervous that I won’t be able to make it home this summer to see my family. I’ve been face-timing my boys back home and really would like to see them face to face. But I don’t believe that this virus has peaked in the U.S. yet. I fear the end is far away.
So far since moving to Qatar, there has been a blockade and a pandemic. I would have never expected these things to occur while living so far away from my family. But life as an expat comes with a lot of unexpected situations. Stay healthy. Stay safe.
What weirdly expensive items have you discovered in your foreign country?
How many of us go into Walmart or Target expecting to pick up one or two items and leave thinking, ‘what did I just spend $100 on?’ Well it’s like that everywhere you go in Doha, especially since if you see it, you better get multiples because it may be a long time before you see it again. This is life in Qatar.
I’ve been living in Qatar for 3.5 years and it still shocks me how expensive some things are. Most of the residents are expats, like me, who come here for a tax-free salary. However, there are other benefits to living here, like diversity of cultures and safety, which you can’t really put a price tag on. But contrary to what numbeo.com says: the “Cost of living in Qatar is 8.72% lower than in United States …”, the cost of living in Qatar is not lower than in the United States. In fact, I have the data to prove it.
For example, the first time I saw a deck of cards here, it was at a Shisha spot and it cost about 100 Riyals or $27. In the U.S., you can get that same deck for about $3.87 at Walmart, or a cheap deck for $1 at the $1 store.
The other day, Darryl and I were looking for jump ropes to exercise with and the prices ranged from 50 qar to 159, between $13 and $50 usd.
And don’t even get me started on manicures and pedicures. They can set you back 500-600 riyals easily, that’s $137.
One of the reasons I chose to come to Qatar was it’s location, which should make it a pretty easy travel hub all over the world. Unfortunately, due to the blockade traveling from Qatar is dreadfully expensive now. Three years ago, my sons and I flew to Dubai, for $99 each, non-stop, round trip. The flight took less than 2 hours. Now the flight cost $400+, takes double the time and includes a layover.
Okay, so I know that this is a Muslim country but they do sale alcohol and you will definitely pay the cost to sin. There is literally a ‘sin’ tax and because of it, alcohol prices have doubled in the last year. A bottle of Tito’s vodka is approximately 231 riyals or $64 at Qatar Distribution Corp. You can get that same bottle of Vodka in the U.S. for $20.
In a country that has one of the highest rates of obesity, you would think Gym memberships would be reasonable, think again. An annual gym membership can range from 5000-9000 qar or $1300-2500.
Rent here is insane for what you get. I live in what Americans may call a project looking apartment. A flat among many, but it is very nice, clean and surrounded by greenery, which is rare in Qatar. The maintenance is wonderful and utilities are included. It also has a gym and shopping within the area. The best part is it puts me 10 minutes from work. It’s a two bedroom, 2.5 bathroom, 120 sq meter, 1291 sq foot apartment and the rent is 8500qar/mth or approx $2400/mth. I’ve lived in 4 places in Qatar and rent all ranged from $1500-$3900/mth. Here is where I agree with numbeo.com, “Rent in Qatar is 16.40% higher than in United States (average data for all cities).”
Since Darryl does the shopping let me introduce my guest blogger, my husband Darryl, who will discuss other weirdly expensive things in Qatar:
“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Wimpy 1931
Like a lot of children I loved cartoon as a kid…who didn’t? The Wimpy character from Popeye was hilarious to me because all he wanted to do was eat and not pay for it (lol). Now that I am older, I see Wimpy as someone who wanted to get the most he could and pay the least for it (not sure if he ever paid for any of those burgers he ate).
As the main shopper/cook of our household, I, like a lot of people (excluding my wife), will travel to the ends of the earth or Qatar for a bargain, (although if I factor in the amount of gas I use to travel to the ends of the earth it may not be a bargain anymore, IJS). However, in Qatar there are some items that no matter how far you drive they will still be weirdly expensive when you get there.
With that being said, here are the nominees for Weirdly Expensive Items in the Household and/or Food Category:
A Liter of Listerine mouthwash at 60 qar (approx $16 usd) may cause you to stock up on Mentos.
Tide w/bleach at 75 qar ($20 usd) might have you thinking about using the old bar of soap and wash board method to wash your clothes. Even some of the non USA brands are just as expensive.
Taco Shells, not even the full taco kit, is 35 qar ($10 usd). I mean if you are going to pay that much for the shells all the fixings have to be top of the line like Waygu beef and aged cheese.
Non-Dairy Ice Cream 45 qar ($13 usd) regardless of your reason for eating non dairy Ice cream (vegan or health issues) at this price it is definitely a treat worth savoring.
…and the award for most Weirdly Expensive Items in the Household and/or Food Category goes to that little green leafy vegetable called Kale!
At 60 qar per kilo ($17 usd) it is by far one of the most weirdly expensive food items in all of Qatar. I mean it is a leaf for all intense purposes. While I understand it is a superfood, at that price it should be considered a super duper food.
To my readers: What weirdly expensive items have you discovered in your foreign country?
Thank you to my contributors- Darryl Montgomery (husband), members of the BSOQ facebook group.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” -George Santayana
This summer I visited three cities in Germany. I went there for two purposes, see a concert and visit a friend. I’ll admit Germany was never on my list and I don’t know anyone whose list it is on however, after visiting I wish I had gone sooner. If Germany is not on your list, here is eight reasons why it should be…
It is no secret that Germany is rich in history. For many of us World War II and the Holocaust is the most memorable. But, I also remember watching when the Berlin wall came down on television in 1989. I was 12 years old and we discussed it the next day in school.
Here are just a few of the historical sights in the three cities that I visited- Koln also better known as Cologne, Hannover and Berlin.
If the historical symbols around Germany don’t move you, nothing will.
Many European styles are reflected in German buildings, medieval, roman, gothic, etc… There doesn’t seem to be one distinctive style. A lot of the East/West history is reflected in the architecture and there is something different around every corner which makes it’s buildings very interesting to look upon.
Germany is a very clean country. I witnessed this in each of the three cities: Koln, Hannover and Berlin. I don’t know about the rest of Germany but I was pretty impressed by the cleanliness of the streets, public transportation and I need to mention this, self-cleaning public toilets.
Parks, Gardens and Romance
Germany is also very pretty. I found the parks to be very romantic and well-maintained. Speaking of Romance, love is locked-in all over Germany. And to top it all, Koln is where Eau de Cologne originated.
I must mention the transportation system in Germany. We took both buses and trains and both were efficient, timely, easy to navigate and clean. They have sections for strollers and fold down seats for the elderly. They have family transportation passes as well. I don’t know how that works fully but as long as my husband and I were with my friend, whom is a resident, we were able to ride the buses and local trains under her pass. Their transportation system uses an honor system but you should buy your tickets and have them available in case they ask for it. We were not asked to show our tickets but once, and that was on the regional trains.
Beers, Bars, Festivals and Concerts
Germans love their beer and it is a major part of the culture. Germany is the top producer of beer in Europe and follows an old 500+ year old Beer Purity Law -only 4 ingredients can be used to make German beer. You can drink it in public too. I mean it is home to Oktoberfest. Beer gardens are big in Germany and your beer glass depends on the beer type you order. *Word of advice- when visiting a beer garden and there are live bands, don’t talk loudly over the music, you will get shooshed.
Festivals pop up all over Germany and you must try the food at the festivals. (We will get into the food in a minute) Germany is also a great place to attend a concert. I was hesitant about attending a concert in Germany because of things I had heard like -they don’t like to speak English, they don’t like black people. Let me tell you, don’t listen to what people say. You must experience things on your own. I would attend another concert in Germany in a heartbeat. I went to see Pink here. Seeing Pink in concert was one of my dreams, so I took a chance in attending a concert in a foreign country despite neigh-sayers. My husband and I had a blast and we were in good company. We felt very safe and comfortable and even walked back to our hotel afterwards (late at night) which was about a 30 min walk but we weren’t alone because many people walked. The crowd was lively and friendly. Pink puts on the best show!!
Did you know that Birkenstocks are made in Germany. I did not, so when my friend took me to a store and birkenstocks were half the going price, I couldn’t help but purchase. And of course the variety is better and you don’t have to worry about if they are genuine because you are getting them from the source.
I saved the best for last. I was in Vegan Heaven. If you are Vegan, you will fall in love with Germany. The food was my favorite part of my stay in Germany. I found great vegan food in each of the three cities: Koln, Hannover and Berlin! I’m not just talking about vegan junk food either. This country had the most variety of vegan food than any other country I have traveled to so far. If for no other reason, this is reason enough to add Germany to your list of countries to visit.
My husband who is not vegan also enjoyed the vegan food. Outside of the vegan food, he was not impressed with the Currywurst, Weisswurst or apple struedel, which are three things Germany is supposed to be known for. But this is because he expected too much. We both enjoyed the Bavarian pretzels, mustard and beer though.
I really enjoyed Germany. I can’t say enough about the vegan scene. Visiting my friend, Reem, her husband and baby girl Rhea, who opened their home to us for two nights in Hannover was a bonus. Meeting up with another friend, Alyssa, in Berlin was fun too. Seeing Pink in concert in Cologne was a dream come true. Even though Germany was never on my list of places to visit, there was one specific moment when I knew Germany would forever hold a special place in my heart. That moment was when Darryl and I got off the airplane in Germany and while walking through the airport we stopped at the supermarket and saw the most Alpro products we had ever seen in our lives. The fact that an airport supermarket had vegan products sealed the deal for me. I’m excited to experience some other places in this world that may not be on my list because you never know ’til you go!
Questions you may have
Where did we stay and how was the stay? In Koln, we stayed at Hotel Lyskirchen. The room was small but the location was great. We also stayed in the Ameron Koln Hotel Regent on the day of the Pink concert. This hotel was nice and within a 30 minute walk to the RheinEnergie Stadion. It’s restaurant is pricey but the drinks are stiff. In Hannover- We stayed with my friend. In Berlin, we stayed at the Pestana Berlin Tiegarten. This hotel is very nice too but a little far from the sites.
How did we get between the cities? We flew into Koln via Rome. We took a train from Kol’n to Hannover- about a 3 hour ride. We took a train from Hannover to Berlin- about 1.5 hours. We took a plane from Berlin back to Qatar- about 6 hours. As mentioned the public transportation is great in Germany. You can take Ubers and regular taxis within the city as well.
What was my favorite vegan restaurant? In Koln- Sattgrun. Hands down the best vegan restaurant I ate at in Germany. I ate there both days I was in Koln. Others- Hommage (for breakfast). In Hannover- We didn’t really eat out here but I enjoyed shopping for vegan foods in the market. In Berlin- There were many but if I have to narrow it down to one, I would say: Vedang Plant Burger in Berlin Mall. They even had a Mary Jane CBD burger. Others- Dolores California Gourmet Burritos.
How did you find the people? My friend who resides in Germany says she has experienced some racism being from middle-eastern descent and the German people are very prideful, especially the older folk. She told me about an incident where she tried to help this older German woman who had fallen and the women hit her in response. Outside of people providing a service, we didn’t have much interaction with other people. We found the people of Germany to be pleasant, not the most friendliest but not unkind either. They were helpful when asked questions and as African Americans we didn’t experience any mistreatment from anyone. Most people spoke English too and if they didn’t they asked someone who did.
I would love to hear from my readers. What place have you visited that surprised you? What place should I add to my list that may surprise me- has to have good vegan food-?
There is so much to see and do in Rome it is difficult to know where to start. We spent 10 days in Rome, at the end of June into the first few days of July. We took a train from Santa Lucia Venice Train Station to Rome Termini. The ride was about 4.5 hours. The weather was good outside of the unprecedented heat wave that swept through Italy.
We stayed in Trastevere, which is in the 13th Rione of Rome, on Villa della Scala. It’s located on the West Bank of the Tiber river. We had a 3 bedroom Airbnb to fit our party of 5. The apartment was not the best but the location was everything especially with Donkey Punch- a bar and restaurant, right below us. Trastevere is definitely the place to stay for young adults. It is also a good starting point for seeing the sights. Most of the sights are within an hour walking distance from Trastevere. And even though an hour seems far to be walking, there is much to see along the way to the sights. There is no such thing as boring walks in Rome. Trastevere is filled with party spots, bars, restaurants, and boutique stores. You’re bound to find something different here. During the day, it’s quiet but it comes alive at night.
We opted to do our own guided tours since we had so much time in Rome anyway. We used Google Maps to plan our trips and map out proximity of each sight that we wanted to see. Sights that were close to each other we clumped together.
On the first day of our walking tour, we visited the Pantheon and 3 squares: Campo De Fiori- a marketplace square, Piazza Navona- a large square with 3 beautiful fountains including the Fountain of Neptune and a large Egyptian obelisk and Piazza Del Popolo- an urban square with the Obelisco Flaminio (a large obelisk) and 2 fountains- many of the tours meet in this square. All three of these squares were on our way to Villa Borghese-a landscape garden with museums and attractions and a killer view of Rome. If you can climb the stairs and there are many of them, you will not be disappointed. After visiting the park, we walked to the Spanish Steps and admired the interesting architecture. But while we sat there taking pictures, I wondered why everyone visited these steps anyway. They are just steps. However, I am happy that we visited when we did because a few weeks later there was a ban placed on people sitting on the Steps due to the damage they were incurring. At the foot of the steps is the Fountain of the Old Boat and some boutique stores and designer shops. A 10 minute walk later, we arrived at the Trevi Fountain. It just kind of appeared out of no where. It’s like it sits right in the middle of everything. It is everything you’ve heard, absolutely beautiful. It’s huge!! For me, it was a highlight of Rome indeed. We couldn’t really enjoy it because it was so crowded. As soon as one person got up from taking their pictures another person sat down. We decided to visit the fountain again, but this time we went at night. We went at midnight in fact, sat a while and had a drink. I would highly recommend this. It was cooler and fewer people. Seeing it all lit up was even more stunning. There was plenty of room to sit and marvel. A wedding proposal happened there that night too. And of course Darryl and I tossed some coins into the fountain together and smooched. A 30 minute walk from the Fountain will put you at the Colosseum. We observed from the outside and this was the only place that I wished we had booked a tour to see the inside. Our 5 hour walking tour on this day cost us nothing except for a cone of sorbet.
On our next day of touring, we headed to the Holy See, which was on the opposite side of the River Tiber than the previously mentioned sights. We saw St. Peters Basilica and had a glimpse of the garden within Vatican City. The Vatican is where we saw the most tourist. And if I could rewind time I would do this visit a whole lot differently. We arrived at the Vatican around 9:00 a.m. and headed for the entrance. What we got instead was a line curling all the way around the corner. It was very hot but we were not about to leave Rome having missed the most holy place of Christian worship. So we stood in line, on one of the hottest days in Europe for almost 3 hours and we were not alone. We paid when we entered the Vatican and purchased the audioguide. The Museum was beyond crowded, too crowded to even enjoy the experience actually. I just kept thinking, this has to be a violation of a fire code. The entire time was spent shuffling through the crowds like we were in a herd. Museum attendants directed traffic. Tour groups and individuals were squashed together. It was not a pleasant experience, but an experience nonetheless. Finally we made it to the Sistine Chapel. Biblical events come to life in paintings all over this room and especially the ceiling. Historical figures painted in their likeness. It is very awe-inspiring, that one man, Michelangelo could create something so magnificent in a short period of 4 years. A work of art that he considered far inferior to his other art forms. Seeing this was worth the time spend in line in the heat. However if you can find and afford a private tour during off hours DO IT!! This way you can enjoy the entire experience and marvel at all of the artwork on display and a lot of the works we missed. [You aren’t allowed to take pictures of the Sistine Chapel but I managed to sneak a few].
My son attends Temple University in Philadelphia and they have a campus in Rome so we went there as well. The campus is very small and if you weren’t looking for it, you wouldn’t even know it was there. We also tried to visit the Museum of Criminology but it is permanently closed.
Other Things to Do in Rome
City touring of historical sights is great and all but I was overdue for some fun in the sun. A 30 min walk to the S. Pietro train station and a short hour long train ride took us to the outskirts of Rome to the Santa Marinella Beach. It’s a nice beach in a small town surrounded by neighborhood shops and restaurants. The water was cool and the weather was perfect. Santa Marinella Beach is a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of Rome.
On Sunday, we visited Mercato di Porta Portese, a large flea market, where you can shop for some interesting finds. We also participated in a vegan cooking class. You can find the details by clicking here. The food was great but the limoncello was the best we had in Rome.
On some nights in Trastevere along the Tiber River there are festivals where you can play games, make purchases, eat, hang out or like us- people watch.
The only guided tour we took in Rome was out of Rome to Pompeii. It was a long bus ride but I highly recommend others to take a day trip someplace else while staying in Rome. There are many great places that can be visited with a day trip from Rome. Visiting Pompeii and listening to it’s history was a great experiences. After touring the ruins, we climbed Mt. Vesuvius. This was quite interesting since another volcano erupted close by the following day. It was a tedious hike, but provided a wonderful view of the other island in the distance, if you can endure the trek up the steep incline and rocky road. I just kept thinking of the movie Pompeii. City Wonders was our tour guide company.
Much of the food we consumed in Rome, we prepared ourselves after visits to the neighborhood markets: Carrefour and Pam. But of course I searched out some vegan restaurants. I really enjoyed eating at Flower Burger and you know it’s good vegan food if the non-vegans enjoy it as well. We tried out the spicy chickpea, cheesy chickpea, and the flower burger. All were fantastic. Another vegan restaurant I tried was Ecru- fully organic, vegan and raw. A little too raw for my taste and expensive. You can also find a few ice-cream shops that serve vegan ice cream, not just sorbet.
Ten days in Rome was enough time to see the sights and really enjoy all that Rome has to offer. I would like to revisit again but next time I’d like to stay on the outskirts to enjoy more of the countryside of Rome. But for a first timer, when in Rome you must: take in the sights, walk around to appreciate the architecture, try the gelato and definitely take a day trip to one of the other famous cities. There is so much to see and do in Rome, on a visit one could never get bored.
With the new Metro system up and running in Qatar, I thought it was about time to try it out. When I moved here 3+ years ago, there wasn’t an established transportation system but the country had began building one. Roads and roundabouts were slowly closing in preparation for the new metro and in conjunction with the 2022 World Cup stadiums being built all over. The Metro is a component of the larger Rail System being built. The transit system became operational in May. The Red, Blue and Gold lines are now open and operating.
We decided to take the metro from our residence to the Flower Festival in Souq Waqif. A major convenience to the metro is it’s MetroLink. It is a free service feeder bus that runs daily and provides first and last mile connectivity to Qatar Rail customers within a 2-5 km radius of the Doha metro stations- https://www.qr.com.qa/metrolink. This is the website where you can find out times, locations and schedules for the Metrolink.
We live in Barwa City and there are a few Metrolink bus stops within our community. We only had to walk about 2 minutes to the nearest stop and it was on time.
The Metrolink took us to the Free Zone station which is between Al-Thumama and Al Wakrah. Once there we were able to purchase our tickets. A single standard ticket cost 2 riyals about $0.55 usd; a day pass cost 6 riyals=$1.60 usd, which is a hell of lot cheaper than a day pass on Septa in Philly which will set you back $9.00 usd.
When you enter the station at the Free Zone, there is a vending machine and map. You have to take an escalator or elevator upstairs, then walk across the bridge that takes you over the highway, then walk back down another escalator to purchase your ticket. Once the ticket is purchased, you go back up another escalator and walk to the train door. Seems like a lot of up and down, up and down, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead for this extra time that will be spent just getting to the train. Fortunately the trains run pretty regularly and there are signs, maps and assistants all over to help.
We had to take the Metro Red Line to Msheireb Interchange station where we transferred to the Gold Line and got off at the Souq. Of course you have to do some more up, down walking to actually get to the Souq. There are several exits that take you up to the Souq but I think we walked out of the wrong one.
After about 45 minutes, from our home in Barwa, we made it to the flower festival.
Last words about the Metro:
It is clean.
Timely, however give yourself a few extra minutes to account for the extra walking.
There are three different sections on the train cars: standard and family class- cost the same, Gold club (a single journey cost 10 riyals and a day pass cost 30 riyals)
The train cars are small and can get crowded. If you can afford it opt for the gold club to avoid crowds and guarantee yourself a good seat-in the front of the train with a conductors view, private and enclosed.
Please watch your kids.
Stand clear of the doors and let people off of the train before you try to rush on.
Get onto the train quickly as the doors do not wait and will try to crush you.
Clean up behind yourself.
Be careful if you are wearing a thobe or abaya or any other long clothing so that your clothes do not get caught in the escalator or metro doors.